High cost of college: Experts answer viewer financial aid questions

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(NewsNation) — Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said recently the White House is more open to entirely wiping out student loan debt.

Last week, President Biden announced he is extending the payment pause on federal student loans until at least September, which is great for a lot of people.

But the president has been under a lot of pressure to forgive student debt completely.

Financial aid researcher Mark Kantrowitz addressed viewers’ questions on financial aid during an appearance on “Morning in America.”

NewsNation viewer Richard Sira from Michigan paid off his daughter’s advanced degree college debt, but said “it took me 14 years” to do it.

Now the retired health care professional has grandchildren to start thinking about. 

Q: Why has the cost of colleges gotten so expensive? Considering these colleges pay their basketball and football coaches millions of dollars and their CEOs hundreds of thousands of dollars? Why are we paying so much money per student?

According to Kantrowitz, most of the cost of a college education is in the cost of instruction and the cost of staff.

There are also some energy costs, equipment costs and facilities costs, all of which go up faster than the consumer price index.

And when you throw in the multiplier effect from offering need-based financial aid, it causes costs to go up twice as fast as the inflation rate.

Kantrowitz said what we’re seeing is the impact of long-term trends, especially with cuts in government support on a per-student, inflation-adjusted basis.

Colleges don’t sit on piles of money, he said. So the idea that they could just spend more from their endowment, which they certainly could, wouldn’t make a difference.

Most colleges are recirculating tuition revenue in the form of grants to lower-income students. What they could do is increase class sizes, which means that one faculty member would be teaching more students, which does affect the quality of education.

They’ve also been hiring more part-time faculty since they don’t pay them benefits, which also isn’t entirely fair to those faculty.

Q: Do you have any advice for young people who are paying off their own college?

According to Kantrowitz, sign up for autopay where your monthly payment is automatically transferred to the lender. Not only are you less likely to be late with a payment but you’ll get an interest rate reduction as an incentive.

“Typically, a quarter of a percent on federal loans and as much as half a percent on private student loans,” he said.

Claim the student loan interest deduction on your taxes. That lets you claim it even if you don’t itemize deductions.

And obviously, save before college.

Also, look at the net price of the college. Choose a less expensive college such as an in-state public college. Even though they give less financial aid, they are a quarter to a third of the cost of a private college, so they’re going to be less expensive, even with no financial aid.

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